Now Reading
If border states had an actual emergency, it might look a lot like climate change

Note: This story is more than 3 years old.

What the Devil won't tell you

If border states had an actual emergency, it might look a lot like climate change

  • If it's a state of emergency President Trump wants, the border region could use a couple.
    White HouseIf it's a state of emergency President Trump wants, the border region could use a couple.

"Nine-one-one, what's your emergency?"

"I don't really need to call you. I would just rather get to the hospital faster because of traffic and I hate that light on Via Entrada, plus Aunt Nancy is being a total bitch about stuff."

Just as 9-1-1 is reserved for actual emergency calls, President Donald Trump's emergency powers are reserved for something more than temper-tantrums punctuated with "they're being mean to me."

The real emergency regarding Trump's border wall is that Republicans in Congress got themselves in a fix. They didn't want any part of another government shutdown almost as much as they wanted to avoid freaking out the MAGAverse full of the president's supporters. Trump didn't want to be owned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a second shutdown and fears Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter more than the Constitution itself.

So a perfectly creative solution is to exercise his authority to declare an emergency and move money around to pay for his border wall. Let the courts tell him he can't do what he wants to do. Then he can pout about "so-called" judges at future rallies. The MAGAverse likes that.

Though, it should be pointed out that a defeat in the courts is debatable. Judges would have to get in the business of playing president and deciding what an emergency is. But Trump didn't help himself by stating plainly, "I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster."

If there is an emergency at the border, there is an emergency in Pima County because where we live includes nearly 100 miles of that border. The infrastructure leading up from the border comes right at us. When was the last time you, Tucsonans, felt a sense of imminent dread to the point where you were too scared to go outside?

Then there's the notion of the total pain in the ass. Say we have a searing heatwave: the very idea of going outside would pretty much suck and you would say as much to those nearest you. If there were a monsoon flood, it would dominate small talk at the water cooler. If there were an epidemic of killer influenza, we would be discussing it with the cashier at the drug store. When was the last time you answered: "What's up?" with "God-damned border!"

As the federal courts figure out what an emergency might look like at the border, "imminent dread in Tucson" or the lesser "total pain in Pima County" might be tests judges could consider if the reasonable 911 dispatcher test doesn't suffice. 

On the other hand, if Trump wants to help this border community then we could use some emergency love.

This border county and state do confront real pressing problems — ones I suppose we could call "emergencies" — that could use an infusion of that extra quarter-billion dollars in new defense spending Trump has sought since taking office.

Emergency egress and ingress

Hey, that opening crack about traffic wasn't a joke. 

Ask Pima County residents about our most pressing needs and road repair — not the border or caravans — would top the list.

Southern Arizona’s roads are also in desperate need of improvement to the point where the county tried to bond for basic road maintenance even though it knows that’s a bad idea from the standpoint of money management.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry quoted one national transportation research organization's study showing Tucson's roads are ranked the fourth-worst in the nation. It works out to $661 a year for each motorist on our roads. According to Pima County, 70 percent of the county's major roads are in fair or poor condition without a major funding source to keep more fair roads from turning even poorer.

How is that a national security threat that requires the reallocation of emergency dollars? Hey, if Canadian aluminum (let alone cows) poses a threat to our very survival than I can argue anything does. I mean, how do we win the Battle of the Caravans without better roads in Southern Arizona for our proud troops to convoy down?

Plus how many tourists can produce their birth certificates? And just how many of them aren't even our our tourists? I bet they're just passing through on the way to California. Y'know ... Socialists. And … and … and! Just how many of them are from Messico, driving better cars than real Americans? All because federal law lets them.

And some of them, I presume, are very fine people.

The federal government’s share of highway funding, by the way, has fallen by 25 percent since 2001 as a share of gross domestic product. The Federal Highway Trust fund is expected to be broke by 2025.

The Trump administration has in the past two years spent and/or budgeted a total of $277 billion in defense increases. If approved the administration’s budget would exceed the 2016 defense budget by $120 billion. We spent three years ago more than the next nine countries on defense and most of the rest are (or were) allies.

Emergency smack-down

Let's take a look at the broader state of our border state. In Arizona, 1,144 people died of opioid overdoses between June 2017 and April 2018. Read that again. That’s less than a year. In just our state. That’s a crisis. One might call it an actual emergency.

white paper discussing the problem on reservations noted that the number-one predictor of who may develop an addiction is chronic pain followed by depression. You think they are depressed about illegal immigration?

None of the factors driving the epidemic are “availability” because demand will always be fed by supply if there’s money to be made. Building a wall won’t do a damned thing to address this crisis that more treatment options won’t do better.

In fact, the president has already told the Health and Human Services secretary to consider declaring a public health emergency and look for ways to address the problem. Just so long as it doesn't disrupt the authority wielded by the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Yet there's never enough money for treatment to get people off of opioids. Congress doesn't have the will to spend the money needed even though it's taken cracks at the issue in 2016 and 2018.

So we're just an emergency away from saving actual lives in Arizona as opposed to the fake ones being lost to imaginary terrorists coming over the border.

So someone call up Randolph Mantooth and cue the theme the theme song; an emergency response should be rolling down the road.

Running dry

A smart Republican senator from Florida has resisted the emergency call calculating in his head and then out loud: “Wait a sec … if Trump can do that, then the next president can declare an emergency and tackle climate change.”

Senator, before you talk to your constituents on Orlando Beach, or grab a boat out to Tampa Island, we are kind of experiencing a drought here and climate change is making it worse.

Overwhelming evidence of the risk of climate change exists. Republicans won’t budge because they think it’s funny how mad "the Libs" get over it. So here comes President Kamala Sherrod O’Rourke wielding massive emergency powers that Trump just said are fine to use.

Arizona's drought is made worse by a similar dry spell in the Rocky Moutnains. The Colorado River is fed by melting snow from those mountains and climate change is threatening to eliminate the snowpack altogether.

Growth requires reliable access to an abundant water supply, which has been the Colorado River, delivered uphill by the Central Arizona Project.

Meanwhile, the federal government is being rather insistent about Arizona and Colorado signing onto an agreement to reduce our demand for Colorado River water before the Bureau of Reclamation does it for us. Nice water supply you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

Why would they do so such a thing?

Lakes Powell and Meade are at historically low levels because of the drought because of climate change. One might already be calling this an em … emerge … emergency.

Water, and I’m going out on a limb here, could be considered a vital natural resource.

Right here in Tucson, we were the city with the seventh-largest increase in heat between 1965 and 2016. Then 2017 was the hottest year on record. Tucson isn't a place known to be temperate.  So we are needing more water not less. 

Here's something else to ponder: A drought means digging deeper down in aquifers for dirty water. Our water might turn brown ... and brown is an emergency, is it not?

We'd mention, Senator Rubio, how the drought might affect forest fires but a whole bunch of our state has already burned.

Little help

But we have a border emergency instead. I'm not sure what to think about it because there are emergencies facing Southern Arizona and the country in general that the right wing won't let anyone else touch.

It’s a funny thing about precedent. It just sits there waiting to be followed. Forever. 

One of the hilarious things about Donald John Trump and His Army of Zombies is how they like to tear up the old rule book while demanding everyone else live by it. At some point, the rest of us are going to realize the 45th president and his supporters have written new rules.

Are you paying attention President Kirsten Castro Booker? I mean ... health care is a universal human right. Is free college? Maybe.

Meanwhile we have real work to do to address the actual crises facing this border state. A little help from Washington would be nice.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is a former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things the Devil won’t.

— 30 —

Top headlines

Best in Internet Exploder